Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, started a New Mexico mechanical contracting firm in the 1970s whose later sale made him a millionaire. But his advocacy of minimalist governance and his lack of detail on infrastructure policy leave unclear the potential impact of a Johnson White House on the construction industry.
Johnson, 63, won only 1% of the popular vote as the Libertarian candidate in 2012. While gaining in some recent polls, he remains in single digits in 2016, not qualifying for the last debate on Oct. 19, despite a Chicago Tribune endorsement. Johnson’s presidential runs follow a term as New Mexico governor in which he was known for tight-fisted fiscal policy and vetoing 700 bills.
Since Johnson founded Big J Enterprises in 1976 at age 23, the firm benefited from private-sector expansion in the Southwest. It had a key role in building Intel Corp.’s Rio Rancho plant in New Mexico. Over the next two decades, it became a large regional contractor with revenue of about $35 million. Johnson put Big J into a blind trust after becoming governor, from 1995 to 2003. In 1999, he sold Big J to Richard Teater, a former Fluor Corp. executive. Bloomberg pegged the sale price at $10 million, but Teater told ENR the amount he paid Johnson was “significantly less than that.”
Teater says he was attracted to Big J’s links to Intel and other big owners. “Gary started out hands-on. He was the one who saw the opportunity with Intel,” says Teater. “Once he got in there, he got them to let him bid on trade work and managed to acquire more scope and resources.” Under Johnson, Big J had a payroll of up to 1,000 people, says Teater, who sold the firm in 2013 to TLC Plumbing and Utility, Albuquerque, for an undisclosed sum.